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A Rheophilic Suprise, Steatocranus bleheri
by Dave Hansen

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I maintain numerous riverine species and have found a manner of tank setup that is successful for most. Due to the fact that these fish stay relatively small, I chose a 30 gallon long tank size. This is a three foot long tank and has always worked out perfectly for most every Steatocranus species I have kept; Steatocranus irvinei the lone exception. I use fine grain pool filter sand for the substrate. I normally place rock piles about a foot from each end of the tank. I then place breeding caves and/or logs at the very end of the tanks. I have found this method offers a comfortable place for the male to relax without feeling exposed. He can duck into the rockwork and still feel he is guarding his breeding site.

Fin Fish Marine biology Tail Underwater

I make use lots of live plants (primarily Anubias species) for both cover and aesthetics. I have never had problems with plants being damaged by any member of the genus although I have heard reports to the contrary, from others. Overall this group of fish tends to be timid. I believe the rocks and plants help them to feel at ease. A common mistake hobbyists make with rheophilic cichlids is the presumption that they need to create a whirlpool to mimic the fish's natural waterways. Keep in mind that their bodies are designed to keep them out of the current and from being dragged downstream. While some water movement is appreciated there is no need have filters and power heads blasting away. I typically will use a slightly over-sized filter for the tank size to promote some extra water movement and ensure the water is well oxygenated. I place the filter flow over a large rock allowing the current to be dispersed. This will reduce the flow of the water but creates some small turbulence in other parts of the tank. One observation I have made is that S. bleheri will always pick the spawning site furthest away from the filter flow, which confirms my opinion that they really do want to stay out of the current. I use low wattage, full spectrum lighting and diffuse it slightly so as not to over power the fish. The lack of intensity keeps them from looking washed out and stressed. Our water is South Texas is very hard. The pH is about 8.2 in most of my tanks and is very hard. Typically any measuring device for hardness maxes out. Steatocranus bleheri has had no issues growing, breeding, or maintaining its appearance in these conditions.

Feeding has been very simple. Members of the genus are typically not specialized feeders and S. bleheri is no exception. I feed several different types of flake, though most of foods are spirulina based. They do get more intermittent feedings of flake with higher protein content as well. Occasionally they get a treat of frozen brine or daphnia. They will eagerly accept any type of food. I feed on the light side in general. My colony gets fed four times a week unless there is fry in the tank. In this instance, the sparse feedings increase.

Head Eye Reptile Fish Marine biology

I acquired a group of eight in the fall of 2007. When I was given the fish they were presented to me as Steatocranus sp. "square head". The fry had only been free swimming for about seven days when they were relocated to my tank. Initially much of their time was spent hiding. Before long however, they were out exploring the tank. They grew slowly and they exhibited no aggressive behavior towards each other. After a few months they had put on some size and this is when I began to notice some characteristics that led me to think these might not be S. sp. "square head" after all. The most obvious trait was the horizontal stripes converging at the base of the caudal fin. The upper lip protruding past the lower also had me questioning as this is a trait seen in S. bleheri. Anxious to confirm my suspicions, I forwarded images to a couple of my colleagues who determined that these were in fact S. bleheri. Later, the fish's namesake had confirmed this as well. I was not disappointed at all that they were not the S. sp. "square head" and was actually quite excited to have S. bleheri. I had never seen this species available and it had been on my want list for quite sometime.

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